'Early to bed' does make you wise

A person's academic performance in college could be boosted through the amount of sleep they get, new research has suggested. Presented at Sleep 2011 - the 25th anniversary meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies - in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the findings showed that shut-eye can help students retain and integrate new information.

This in turn can be used to enable individuals to successfully solve problems in an examination, said lead author Michael Scullin from the Behaviour, Brain and Cognition programme at Washington University in St Louis.

As part of the investigation, it was found that performance on a microeconomics test that included sleep during a 12-hour period was preserved, while performance declined when focused on wakefulness.

Mr Scullin said: "Our findings demonstrate the importance of sleep to the ability to flexibly combine distinct concepts to solve novel problems."

Chartered Psychologist Professor Colin Espie commented: "There has been a series of studies in recent years which demonstrate that people learn and retain information much better following a period of sleep compared with a period of wakefulness.

"This perhaps shouldn't surprise us. The brain is a very powerful 'machine' which is powered primarily by sleep. When our daily lives are 'off-line' crucial work can be done."

The findings come after recent research published in the journal Science showed that high-quality early education learning can result in individuals enjoying higher socio-economical status when they grow up.

Professor Espie will be leading a symposium under the title "The best bridge between hope and despair is a good night's sleep" at the Annual Conference of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology.

The conference takes place in Birmingham on 1-2 December 2011. For more about the event see the conference website.